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New Ukraine coalition makes NATO membership a priority
Ukraine's newly unveiled parliamentary coalition has vowed to make NATO membership a priority, further cementing the country's tilt towards the West. It coincided with the first anniversary…

By: euronews (in English)

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New Ukraine coalition makes NATO membership a priority – Video



Papantonio: Why Infrastructure Investment Vanished
This segment originally aired on the November 16th, 2014 episode of Ring of Fire on Free Speech TV. Some of the best economists in the country have been saying for years that the best way…

By: Ring of Fire Radio

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Papantonio: Why Infrastructure Investment Vanished – Video

Seven players in Australias 2011 World Cup squad were of Polynesian and Melanesian heritage. For the last Lions tour, there were more players of Pacific Island descent (Manu Tuilagi, Mako Vunipola and Taulupe Faletau) than there were Scots in the touring party. There are an estimated 184 professional players of either Samoan, Fijian or Tongan descent playing in European leagues.

Before pointing the finger elsewhere, it is important to stress that many wounds are self-inflicted. The governance on the islands is at best amateurish, at worst open to accusations of corruption as the Samoan players dispute with their union has demonstrated. The First World War aphorism of Lions led by donkeys has never been more applicable.

Neither are Samoas financial problems unique. Fiji sacked their respected coach, Inoke Male, in January to save money while Tonga needed a last-minute contribution from their government to undertake their current European tour. Yet even if the problems are not created elsewhere, the rest of the world often does little to assist. Institutionally, the International Rugby Board Council is weighted against the three Pacific Islands, who collectively share a single vote while the eight founder members have two votes each. Canada, Italy and Japan also have a single vote each.

Other than expenses, Samoa will receive no money for their match on Saturday against England at Twickenham that will turn over several million pounds. This is standard practice for host nations but it is predicated on England returning the favour with their own tour, which they will not. In the last 10 years only Scotland have visited Samoa, although the All Blacks finally relented to pressure by promising a match in Apia next year.

An even more emotive issue is that of the talent drain from the Islands across the world. Particularly in the northern hemisphere, it is painted in black and white with terms such as poaching frequently thrown at New Zealands door when in truth there are several shades of grey involved. The vast majority of the All Blacks Polynesian and Melanesian contingent are New Zealand born and raised.

It is also hard to begrudge Vunipola or Tuilagi representing England considering they were educated there or dispute Fijian Semesa Rokodugunis right to wear the red rose given he fought for the country in Afghanistan.

Feel-good stories such as his are often outweighed by crass cynicism. Peter Harding, Tongas high performance manager, revealed one of the countrys brightest prospects has been offered a contract by a European club with the implicit promise of being fast-tracked into the national team through the three-year residency rule. Even more brazenly, Brive, the Top 14 team, plan to open an academy in Fiji with an annual intake of 25 players.

Yet it is important to remember that an offer of a professional contract or a scholarship is a way out of poverty for many Islanders who will then be relied on to provide for an extended family. It is also a route too a far higher standard of coaching and facilities. Potential earnings would multiply many times over were they to represent a tier-one international rather than the country of their birth. Closing or extending the residency rule would also shut the door on the careers of many Island players, particularly in Super Rugby where there are severe restrictions on foreign players.

Nathan Hughes, Wasps Fijian back row, is a case in point. He was picked up on a New Zealand scholarship when he was 17 and is now halfway towards qualifying for England through the residency rule. It is really hard in Fiji, Hughes said. The facilities are not as good as in other countries. If you get the opportunity to go overseas, people will take it because thats how it all starts. People are just taking that opportunity.

I would classify myself as Fijian from the bottom of my heart, but all you have to think of is your future. All you have to think of is whats going to happen after rugby. You cant play rugby all your life. You have to plan for what you are going to do after that if a family starts happening.

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England v Samoa: Why the world should repay debt to the Pacific Islands



“NATO expansion a mistake that undermines Europe's stability”
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov has slammed the expansion of NATO as a mistake that would hurt Europe's security. Lavrov further said Ukraine's neutral status is important for the country's…

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"NATO expansion a mistake that undermines Europe’s stability" – Video

Nov 212014

Six years later, former columnist Jon Qwelane still fights for right to call gay people names.

Jon Qwelane sparked widespread anger when he wrote that gay is not okay. (Paul Botes, M&G)

Julius Malema, now leader of the Economic Freedom Fighters, agreed not to sing shoot the boer. Political puppet Chester Missing wants Afrikaans singer Steve Hofmeyr to feel the heat for saying black people were culpable in the creation of apartheid and Hofmeyr wants Missing barred from complaining to his sponsors.

But this week the case most likely to redefine South Africas rules about free speech will take another small step in a journey already six years old, inching towards what seems an inevitable turn in the Constitutional Court, as a former ambassador fights for his right to associate homosexuality with bestiality.

It is gearing up to be quite the fight, pitting potential psychological harm against the suppression of religious expression, and an unrepentant writer against an unremitting human rights organisation.

In mid-2008, when Malema was still in his first year as leader of the ANC Youth League and Chester Missing was not yet a glimmer in the eye of his creator, Conrad Koch, columnist Jon Qwelane took his pen to gay people in a way that brought the complaints flooding in. In a column of just over 400 words published in the Sunday Sun, he nailed his colours to the mast with the headline Call me names, but gay is NOT okay … accompanied by a cartoon of a man marrying a goat.

The piece revolved around split opinions on homosexuality in the Anglican Church. Along the way Qwelane praised Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe for his unflinching and unapologetic stance over homosexuals and decried men kissing men in public, and so shamelessly flaunting what are misleadingly termed their lifestyle and sexual preferences.

Homosexuals and their backers will call me names, printable and not, for stating as I have always done my serious reservations about their lifestyle and sexual preferences, but quite frankly I dont give a damn: wrong is wrong! Qwelane wrote.

I do pray that some day a bunch of politicians with their heads affixed firmly to their necks will muster the balls to rewrite the Constitution of this country, to excise those sections which give licence to men marrying other men, and ditto women. Otherwise, at this rate, how soon before some idiot demands to marry an animal, and argues that this Constitution allows it?

Anticipating the battle ahead, Qwelane pre-emptively said he would neither withdraw his remarks nor apologise for them, specifically naming the South African Human Rights Commission (SAHRC).

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For the love of hate speech

he pristine beaches of Puducherry, a major draw among residents and tourists visiting the former French enclave, are now fast disappearing due to rampant erosion.

Large parts of the beaches along the coastline have been gobbled up by the sea since 1994.

The erosion has now started spreading along the northern side of the citys coastline threatening villages such as Periyamudaliarchavady and Bommayarpalayam in Tamil Nadu.

Probir Banerjee, member, Pondicherry Citizen’s Action Network (PCAN), said: The problem started in 1989 when the Puducherry government constructed two breakwaters. Though a sand bypassing system was provided at the harbour to regularly shift the sand from south to north, this has not been done resulting in erosion along the northern side.

The sand movement along the coast is said to be one of the highest in the country. The net displacement of sand northwards has been calculated at 0.5 million cubic metres a year.

Beaches on the northern side of the coastline are now starved of sand and have started disappearing. Puducherry was losing 0.5 to 1 km of beach every year, he said.

G. Vasu, a resident of Periyamudaliarchavady and member of Repo, an Auroville community, said the rate of erosion was 20 metres a year. Instead of tackling the origin of the problem, the government started constructing groynes and sea walls, which has only aggravated the erosion towards north.

The rubble-mounted sea walls constructed along the Puducherry coast had transferred the problem to Tamil Nadu, which was now facing massive erosion. Groynes should be considered only after taking into account various factors such as wave strength, angle of the waves and shore structure, he said.

Sea currents have become tough and people living on the coast are the victims of erosion.

Due to the construction of groynes, fishermen are unable to dock their boats along the shore. However, the authorities seem to be unaware of the destruction of the coastline, said R. Nagaraj, a fisherman.

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Vanishing beaches: clouds on the horizon

The U.S. Senate has voted against a bill that would rein in the National Security Agencys bulk collection of telephone records within the country, possibly killing any NSA reforms until next year.

Supporters of the USA Freedom Act, in a Senate vote late Tuesday, failed to get the 60 votes needed to end debate and move toward a final vote on the legislation. Fifty-eight senators voted to end debate, while 42 voted against it.

While supporters said the legislation is needed to restore public trust in U.S. intelligence services, opponents said the NSAs widespread collection of U.S. phone records is needed to keep the country safe from terrorism.

The legislation, sponsored by Senator Patrick Leahy, a Vermont Democrat, would have gutted the NSA phone records collection program at a time when the U.S. faces major threats from homegrown terrorists, said Senator Marco Rubio, a Florida Republican. If the U.S. has another terrorist attack, the first question we will be asked is, why didnt we know about it, and why didnt we prevent it? he said.

Supporters cannot cite a single example of this program ever being abused, Rubio said. We are dealing with a theoretical [privacy] threat.

Senator Mike Lee, a Utah Republican, countered that the bill is needed to restore confidence in U.S. intelligence gathering services, after the public learned about widespread surveillance programs through leaks by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden. The public is concerned that the NSA had been collecting and storing enormous amounts of information about American citizens, he said. The data collection at issue was not limited to those suspected of terrorist activity.

Leahy criticized opponents of the bill for using scare tactics to defeat the legislation. He promised to keep fighting for NSA reforms.

The bill had support from President Barack Obamas administration and a wide range of U.S. tech companies and civil rights groups.

The Senate bill would require the NSA to use specific targeting terms when collecting U.S. telephone records, and would require the government to issue reports on the number of people targeted in surveillance programs.

It would give communications providers options for how to report the number of surveillance requests they receive, and require the U.S. Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court to appoint a panel of advocates to argue in support of individual privacy and civil liberties during consideration of surveillance requests.

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US Senate fails to move forward on NSA reform bill

UMKC Law School professor Allen Rostron did not begin his legal career intending to work in the area of Second Amendment rights, or be a full-time law professor. After graduating from Yale Law School, he worked as a tax attorney. He soon found, however, that he did not enjoy the work. At the time of his change of focus, gun control was getting a lot of media attention and when an opportunity presented itself, he took a position at the Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence. The decision began a path that he still follows today.

Rostron was recently invited to be part of a planning team on former New York City Mayor Michael Bloombergs gun control group, Everytown for Gun Safety. As part of this group, Rostron focuses on recent decisions about the Second Amendment made by the Supreme Court after many years of the court not having any significant opinions about it.

When the Supreme Court decides something and you think well, that answers the question, it raises just as many questions, Rostron said.

That leaves lower courts around the country trying to figure out which laws are fine as they are written and which laws need some adjustment or even to be struck down. Groups on both sides of the issue gather to strategize to influence those decisions.

According to its website, Everytown is a movement of Americans working together to end gun violence and build safer communities. Their voices of the movement are moms, mayors and survivors.

There are groups that oppose gun control because they see it as an infringement upon the Second Amendment right to bear arms. Rostron said that in the recent Supreme Court decisions, the court has said that there needs to be a historical point of view taken. If a gun law is being decided on, a modern public policy perspective should not be the only perspective. The Supreme Court says that these decisions should begin by looking at what the right to keep and bear arms traditionally meant.

That creates a real need to know the history, Rostron said. There is a real need for historians to delve back into what was the situation with guns 200 years ago or more. What kind of laws did they have and what did they think you had a right to do and what did the right not cover. Its a very rich, interesting, historical exploration.

The courses Rostron teaches at UMKC have a healthy amount of discussion. He teaches a Seminar on Gun Law & Safety, but all of his courses have some amount of discussion about rights that citizens hold.

Students are willing to debate the gun control issue because its not as personal as more hot-button issues like abortion or affirmative action.

I have found guns to be in the category of some other things like maybe religion very controversial and people have very strong views about it, but theyre not afraid to get into it a little bit with other students or with the teacher, Rostron said.

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Law professor focuses work on Second Amendment



Georgian PM Confirms NATO Bid: Georgian PM reiterates EU and NATO membership ambitions
Georgia's prime minister has told the European Union and NATO that his country remained firmly committed to integration with both organisations after his dismissal of a pro-Western minister…

By: UKRAINE TODAY

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Georgian PM Confirms NATO Bid: Georgian PM reiterates EU and NATO membership ambitions – Video

Our Pro-Life Pope

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Nov 172014

The Holy Father spoke to an association of Italian doctors last week and his words could not have been more clear. Here is the lead paragraph from the Vatican Insider report:

Fidelity to the Gospel of life and respect for life as a gift from God sometimes require choices that are courageous and go against the current, which in particular circumstances, may become points of conscientious objection, Francis said in todays address to the Italian Catholic Doctors Association. The dominant thinking sometimes suggests a false compassion, that which retains that it is: helpful to women to promote abortion; an act of dignity to obtain euthanasia; a scientific breakthrough to produce a child and to consider it to be a right rather than a gift to welcome; or to use human lives as guinea pigs presumably to save others, the Pope said in his speech.

If anyone doubted Pope Francis pro-life commitment, these words should squash their reservations.

Some pro-life Catholics were worried when Pope Francis said last year that the Church should not obsess only about abortion, contraception, and same-sex marriage. Their worry was in direct proportion to the degree that these same critics had obsessed about the triumvirate of issues which, with euthanasia and embryonic stem cell research, were listed as the five non-negotiable issues by Professor Robbie George, a meme that caught fire in conservative Catholic circles. I pointed out at t he time that, in a sense, none of the Churchs teachings are negotiable, and that this meme amounted to a reduction of Christian ethics to political efficacy. But, there was never any doubt the pope was firmly committed to the pro-life cause. Anyone who has read and pondered the Scriptures must perform some strange intellectual somersaults to be other than pro-life.

These same pro-life advocates who criticized the popes comments on obsession have also tended to dismiss, downplay, or derogate Pope Francis consistently trenchant criticisms of the modern economy and his commitment to social justice. This, too, betrays a political agenda not a sound doctrinal or theological stance. The Churchs pro-life concerns are linked in their essence with the Churchs commitment to social justice.

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In 1997, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops passed a document on Hispanics and the New Evangelization that included this paragraph:

In our country, the modern, technological, functional mentality creates a world of replaceable individuals incapable of authentic solidarity. In its place, society is grouped by artificial arrangements created by powerful interests. The common ground is an increasingly dull, sterile, consumer conformism visible especially among so many of our young people created by artificial needs promoted by the media to support powerful economic interests. Pope John Paul II has called this a culture of death.The New Evangelization, therefore, requires the Church to provide refuge and sustenance for ongoing growth to those rescued from the loneliness of modern life. It requires the promotion of a culture of life based on the Gospel of life.

The phrase culture of death may have been used by partisans to equate with party of death when speaking of the Democrats Cardinal Burke used that unhappy phrase but that equation was always wrong.

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Our Pro-Life Pope

Civil society groups say the G20 summit has made a big step towards tackling company tax havens.

The G20 summit has made a significant step towards tackling company tax havens.

The C20, the G20′s civil society engagement group, says the summit’s outcome is a victory for the poor.

Tim Costello, C20 chair and World Vision Australia chief, told AAP it was the first time G20 leaders had agreed to beneficial ownership policies.

G20 leaders have agreed to go after the real owners of companies who use shell companies to avoid paying tax.

Mr Costello said the poor would benefit from greater tax revenues in developing nations.

He said the G20 agreement was no small achievement given opposition from China, and the fact major American corporations, which fund both US political parties, didn’t want greater disclosure policies.

“We know there were nations and powerful vested interests that did not want beneficial ownership mentioned in the text,” he said.

“They succumbed, they agreed, which is incredibly powerful and gives momentum towards finally closing down tax havens.”

The communique, released on Sunday afternoon, said profits should be taxed in the country where the economic activity took place.

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Civil society groups hail G20 a success

Mike Yoder

Liberty Memorial Central Middle School sixth-grade students look at historical features of their school during a Traditions and Heritage Assembly Tuesday, Nov. 11, 2014. The assembly teaches students about the significance of the school and the story behind the building, a monument to WW I veterans.

There are perks to being the principal of Lawrences Liberty Memorial Central Middle School. Having business cards the size of a Trapper Keeper to accommodate your schools name perhaps is not one of them.

But giving tours to other school district employees, now that is fun. They come in from other buildings spread throughout the district, and LMCMS (Ill buy a vowel, please) Principal Jeff Harkin gladly shows them around. One place always gets featured on the tour: The balcony of the schools auditorium.

From that perch, you really get the sense of this room. The tall, ballroom-like ceilings, the panes of stained-glass windows, the heavy red velvet curtains that look like they could house a phantom of the opera, ornately carved trim work, mammoth bronze plaques, and even a stanza of a Rudyard Kipling poem in large letters above the stage.

They usually just stand here with their mouths open and ask how did you guys get this? Harkin says.

Thats the thing about Liberty Memorial Central Middle School: The one thing larger than its name may be its history.

We have things that other schools dont have, Harkin says to the schools sixth-grade class as he stands in the auditorium. We would not see a school built like this today. They couldnt afford it.

It’s hard to imagine that we ever could. But then again, you have to imagine a different day. When Liberty Memorial High School was built at 14th and Massachusetts streets, the country was feeling pretty good about itself. We had just fought the War to End all Wars, and apparently we didnt know much about false advertising yet.

We also hadnt bought in much to the idea of statues of Gen. George Pershing and such. The town wanted to create a memorial for those who died in World War I, and it thought big.

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Lawhorn's Lawrence: Liberty Memorial Central Middle School

MOSCOW NATOs top commander accused Russia of sending troops and weapons into Ukraine on Wednesday, as Ukrainian officials announced that they were bracing for a return to hostilities in the eastern part of the country that already have claimed more than 4,000 lives.

The accusation was the Western military alliances most direct charge against Russia since the start of a tenuous and repeatedly violated cease-fire Sept.5, and it seemed to signal a decisive abandoning of hopes that the agreement would continue to hold.

U.S. Air Force Gen. Philip M. Breedlove told reporters in Bulgaria that NATO had observed Russian tanks, Russian artillery, Russian air defense systems and Russian combat troops enter Ukraine across a completely wide-open border with Russia in the previous two days.

A spokesman for the Russian Defense Ministry, Maj. Gen. Igor Konashenkov, swiftly dismissed NATOs accusations, saying no facts existed to back them up.

The assertion that Russia is pressing into Ukraine came as Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu announced plans to project Russias military reach even farther, by sending long-range bombers on regular patrol missions along Russias borders and over areas from the Arctic Ocean to the Caribbean and the Gulf of Mexico.

We have to maintain a military presence in the western part of the Atlantic and the eastern part of the Pacific Ocean, in the waters of the Caribbean and in the Gulf of Mexico, Shoigu said Wednesday.

Breedloves accusation is only the latest alarm NATO and its allies have sounded about Russian military activity along and across the Ukrainian border.

The accusation reinforces claims by the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe that convoys of weapons and military systems have been moving west through eastern Ukraine in the past few days.

Ukrainian officials, who accused Russia of sending troops and tanks over the border last Friday, are readying the military for attacks in the disputed east.

On Wednesday, Ukrainian Defense Minister Stepan Poltorak told Ukrainian government officials that the countrys forces are deploying to eastern Ukraine and preparing for winter combat because of an increase in activity that has been noted among separatist militias.

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NATO says Russian military definitely moving into Ukraine

Noah Pozner did nothing to change my mind, except die. Before he died, I believed a few sensible gun laws could save children like Noah Pozner. After he died, after he and his Sandy Hook classmates were mowed down by a man with a gun, I changed my mind.

After he died, I realized an old custom had to die with him, so a nobler one could take its place. Before Noah Pozner died, I thought there was nothing wrong with the Second Amendment a little common sense couldnt fix. After he died, Ive come to believe the right of the people to keep and bear Arms no longer promotes our life, liberty and pursuit of happiness, but daily threatens them. How free are we when more people are shot and killed each year in America than populate the towns in which many of us live? How free are we when a backpack that unfolds into a bulletproof covering is a must-have item for schoolchildren?

A well-regulated Militia being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms shall not be infringed.

While I concede that a well-regulated militia might be necessary to the security of a free state, that role is now ably served by our military, professionally trained and highly disciplined, drawn from the ranks of our families and friends, from whom we have nothing to fear. We no longer need Minutemen. The British have not surrounded Concord. This is not Independence Dayand were not under alien attack. I cannot imagine any circumstance in which our government would urge us to arm ourselves in defense of our country. Our nation has outgrown its need for an armed citizenry. The disadvantages of widespread gun ownership far outweigh any perceived advantage. Ask the parents of Noah Pozner. Ask African-American residents of Ferguson, Missouri. Ask what Americas love affair with guns has meant to them.

The merit of a position can be gauged by the temperament of its supporters, and these days the NRA reminds me of the folks who packed the courtroom of the Scopes monkey trial, fighting to preserve a worldview no thoughtful person espoused. This worship of guns grows more ridiculous, more difficult to sustain, and they know it, hence their theatrics, their parading through Home Depot and Target, rifles slung over shoulders. Defending themselves, they say. From what, from whom? I have whiled away many an hour at Home Depots and Targets and never once come under attack.

They remind me of the Confederates who fought to defend the indefensible, sacrificing the lives of others in order to preserve some dubious right they alone valued. They would rather die, armed to the teeth, than live in a nation free of guns and their bitter harvest. You can have my gun when you pry it from around my cold, dead fingers, their bumper stickers read. How empty their lives must be if life without a gun is not worth living.

The first thing Hitler did was confiscate guns,the gun lovers warn, a bald lie if ever there was one. But lets suspend reality and imagine it was true. Where is the Hitler in Canada, in England, in Sweden, in every other civilized nation whose citizens have resolved to live without guns? Let the NRA trot out its tired canard about the housewife whose husband thoughtfully armed her, who shot the intruder and saved her family. I will tell you about the father who mistook his son for a burglar and shot him dead, about the man who rigged a shotgun in his barn to discourage thievery and accidentally slew his precious little girl when she entered the barn to play with her kittens.

What drives this fanaticism? Can I venture a guess? Have you noticed the simultaneous increase in gun sales and the decline of the white majority? After the 2010 census, when social scientists predicted a white minority in America by the year 2043, we began to hear talk of taking back our country. Gun shops popped up like mushrooms, mostly in the white enclaves of Americas suburbs and small towns. One cant help wondering if the zeal for weaponry has been fueled by the same dismal racism that has propelled so many social ills.

When I was growing up, our schools and colleges were unmatched, our medical care unrivaled, our infrastructure state-of-the-art, our opportunities unlimited. America set the gold standard. We can be great again, but not without addressing the fear and ignorance that feed our gun culture, for no nation can ascend until it cures the virus of violence. We cannot let the most fearful among us set our nations tone, lest we descend to that sorry state we labored centuries to rise above. It is time for America to grow up, to become adults, so that children like Noah Pozner have a fighting chance to do the same.

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I was wrong about the Second Amendment: Why my view of guns totally changed

Isabel Allende will receive the Presidential Medal of Freedom, President Obama announced Tuesday. Allende, whose best-known book is “The House of the Spirits,” is the only novelist among the 19 recipients of the nation’s highest civilian honor.

“From activists who fought for change to artists who explored the furthest reaches of our imagination; from scientists who kept America on the cutting edge to public servants who help write new chapters in our American story, these citizens have made extraordinary contributions to our country and the world,” Obama said.

The other creative arts recipients include musician Stevie Wonder, composer Stephen Sondheim and actors Meryl Streep and Marlo Thomas.

Also receiving the Presidential Medal of Freedom this year will be U.S. Rep. John Dingell and former congressman Abner Mikva, broadcast journalist Tom Brokaw, activist Suzan Harjo, golfer and activist Charles Sifford, activist Ethel Kennedy, scientist Mildred Dresselhaus and economist Robert Solow.

Several awards will be given posthumously: to California congressman Edward Roybal, choreographer Alvin Ailey and congresswoman Patsy Takemoto Mink, as well as to James Chaney, Andrew Goodman and Michael Schwerner, the three civil rights activists who were murdered in Mississippi in 1964.

The Presidential Medals of Freedom will be awarded at the White House in a ceremony on Nov. 24.

Book news and more; I’m @paperhaus on Twitter

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Author Isabel Allende to be awarded Presidential Medal of Freedom

STORY HIGHLIGHTS

Editor’s note: Rupert Abbott is Amnesty International’s Research Director for Southeast Asia and the Pacific. The views expressed are his own.

(CNN) — In April this year, people in Myanmar picked up their newspapers and saw … nothing.

Front pages across the Southeast Asian nation were completely black, in a show of solidarity for a journalist that was simply doing his job. This week, as world leaders gather to meet their regional counterparts in Myanmar’s capital Naypyidaw for two major summits, attendees should make a similarly firm statement about freedom of the press.

Rupert Abbott

The darkened front pages — a remarkable move in a country where just a few years before, the military government imposed blanket controls on all media — were in response to the case of Zaw Pe, a journalist with the independent Democratic Voice of Burma who had been sentenced to one year in jail. His “crime” was to investigate corruption in his home town, a story the authorities apparently did not want to see the light of day.

It was a preposterous ruling against a journalist who was just doing his job, and Amnesty International named him a prisoner of conscience — jailed solely for peacefully exercising his right to freedom of expression.

Sadly, the move says much about the backslide in free speech in Myanmar, as the authorities re-tighten their grip on media and increasingly target peaceful critics ahead of national elections next year.

This tightening comes despite Myanmar’s supposed transition away from military rule, which began in 2011, but which is stalling as the government wrestles over how to secure the benefits of greater economic openness while controlling rising expectations of rights and freedoms that come with this. Unfortunately, its efforts to maintain control have frequently involved resorting to familiar tactics of repression and arrests.

President Thein Sein has promised to clear the country’s jails of prisoners of conscience. Yet dozens still remain behind bars, while the jailing of land rights activists, journalists and other human rights defenders has actually picked up pace in the past year.

Excerpt from:
Where free speech is threatened (Opinion) – CNN.com

STORY HIGHLIGHTS

Editor’s note: Rupert Abbott is Amnesty International’s Research Director for Southeast Asia and the Pacific. The views expressed are his own.

(CNN) — In April this year, people in Myanmar picked up their newspapers and saw … nothing.

Front pages across the Southeast Asian nation were completely black, in a show of solidarity for a journalist that was simply doing his job. This week, as world leaders gather to meet their regional counterparts in Myanmar’s capital Naypyidaw for two major summits, attendees should make a similarly firm statement about freedom of the press.

Rupert Abbott

The darkened front pages — a remarkable move in a country where just a few years before, the military government imposed blanket controls on all media — were in response to the case of Zaw Pe, a journalist with the independent Democratic Voice of Burma who had been sentenced to one year in jail. His “crime” was to investigate corruption in his home town, a story the authorities apparently did not want to see the light of day.

It was a preposterous ruling against a journalist who was just doing his job, and Amnesty International named him a prisoner of conscience — jailed solely for peacefully exercising his right to freedom of expression.

Sadly, the move says much about the backslide in free speech in Myanmar, as the authorities re-tighten their grip on media and increasingly target peaceful critics ahead of national elections next year.

This tightening comes despite Myanmar’s supposed transition away from military rule, which began in 2011, but which is stalling as the government wrestles over how to secure the benefits of greater economic openness while controlling rising expectations of rights and freedoms that come with this. Unfortunately, its efforts to maintain control have frequently involved resorting to familiar tactics of repression and arrests.

President Thein Sein has promised to clear the country’s jails of prisoners of conscience. Yet dozens still remain behind bars, while the jailing of land rights activists, journalists and other human rights defenders has actually picked up pace in the past year.

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Where free speech is threatened

In December, the federal district court for the District of Columbia ruled that the collection of bulk metadata likely violates the constitution, but the government appealed

Larry Klayman is as litigious as Barack Obama is American. Indeed, he was the tea-partier who challenged the validity of the presidents birth certificate in court. Taking on presidents is nothing new for the lawyerhe filed 18 lawsuits against the Clinton Administration. His latest suit against the Federal Government, filed in October, contends the Ebola virus is a biological weapon that Obama allowed into the country to support terrorist organizations against Jews and Christians.

Klayman was also one of the first plaintiffs to sue Obama and the National Security Agency for the collection of telephone metadata, an aspect of the secret surveillance program revealed by the documents leaked by Edward Snowden. So far, his suit has gone the furthest for the case against the program, though there are various cases challenging the NSAs metadata collection currently in the court system.

As previously reported here, any decision affecting the governments latitude to collect and analyze citizen information has implications for journalists and their sources. As it stands, any journalist who communicates with a source either targeted by the NSA or within two hops of a person flagged could have their own metadata analyzed by the agency.

Last December, Richard Leon, federal district court judge for the District of Columbia, held in Klaymans case that the collection of bulk metadata likely violates the constitution. In fact, in the 68-page judgment he calls the NSAs program Orwellian and said James Madison, author of the constitution, would be aghast. That judgment ordered the government to stop collecting information about the personal phone calls of the two plaintiffs and destroy records already made, pending the full trial on the constitutionality of the program. However, with a nod to the significant national security interests at stake in this case and the novelty of the constitutional issues, Leon put off the order while the government appealed.

That appeal is being heard Tuesday by the US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit. According to court documents, Klayman will be arguing that the NSAs collection of metadata violates First, Fourth, and Fifth Amendment rights and will be asking the court to uphold the trial judges decision. The governments court documents suggest their argument will center on the idea the program is minimally invasive on constitutional rights, and that it serves the paramount government interest of combating terrorism. They say the metadata they review is the tiny fraction that is within one or two steps of contact of records concerning individuals who are reasonably suspected of association with terrorist activity.

The collection of telephone records is something the Electronic Frontier Foundation has cared about for a very long time, says Andrew Crocker, legal fellow at the EFF, in a telephone interview. As early as 2008, the EFF sued the NSA, questioning its practice of collecting telephone records, says Crocker, who notes the case is still in the court system.

Post-Snowden, the EFF assembled more cases against the NSA. Theyre representing the plaintiffs in First Unitarian Church of Los Angeles, et al. v. NSA et al, and they are also acting as a friend of the court in Klayman v. Obama, arguing along with the American Civil Liberties Union that the collection of telephone metadata is concerning for digital privacy rights.

The call records collected by the government are not just metadatathey are intimate portraits of the lives of millions of Americans, according to the jointly-filed brief by the EFF and ACLU. Specifically, it states the records can indicate political affiliations, health, habits, beliefs, and relationships. The argument uses the example of a call made at 3am to a suicide prevention hotlineeven without knowing the content of the call, the action is revealing, they say.

But in a world where information is collected daily, the maintenance of such a database by the government is not a very large intrusion on privacy, says constitutional scholar and Harvard Law professor Mark Tushnet in a phone interview. That kind of information and indeed much more is stored by large businesses, credit card companies, and everybody who does business on the internet. He says its companies that know more about our preferences and proclivities than the government. Id be more concerned about the maintenance of real data, by all these other entities, than metadata by the government, he says.

Originally posted here:
The anti-NSA case thats pushed farthest through the system is back in court today

Meryl Streep, Stevie Wonder and Tom Brokaw are among the latest Americans tapped to receive the Presidential Medal of Freedom, President Barack Obama has announced.

The performers and former NBC anchor will join 16 others at the White House on Nov. 24 for a ceremony marking their achievements. The medal is the highest honor granted to civilians in the U.S. and honors contributions to U.S. security, world peace and cultural achievement.

“From scientists who kept America on the cutting edge to public servants who help write new chapters in our American story, these citizens have made extraordinary contributions to our country and the world,” Obama said in a statement from Beijing, where the president was traveling for an economic summit.

Musical theater composer Stephen Sondheim and actress Marlo Thomas will also receive the award. Choreographer Alvin Ailey, who died in 1989, will receive the medal posthumously. So will former Rep. Edward Roybal of California, who founded the Congressional Hispanic Caucus.

Those being honored include slain civil rights activists James Chaney, Andrew Goodman and Michael Schwerner, who were killed during their work in an historic voter registration effort in Mississippi in 1964.

Rep. John Dingell of Michigan, the longest-serving congressman in American history, will receive the award, as will Ethel Kennedy, the widow of former Sen. Robert Kennedy. Native American activist Suzan Harjo and former Reps. Abner Mikva of Illinois and Patsy Takemoto Mink of Hawaii are also on the list.

Other recipients include author Isabel Allende, scientist Mildred Dresselhaus, golfer Charles Sifford and economist Robert Solow.

Read the original:
Streep, Wonder, Brokaw to receive Presidential Medals of Freedom

President Barack Obama named 19 Presidential Medal of Freedom recipients Monday. NBC News’ Tom Brokaw, Meryl Streep and Stevie Wonder were among those named to receive the nation’s highest civilian honor.

Obama said in a statement, “I look forward to presenting these nineteen bold, inspiring Americans with our Nations highest civilian honor. From activists who fought for change to artists who explored the furthest reaches of our imagination; from scientists who kept America on the cutting edge to public servants who help write new chapters in our American story, these citizens have made extraordinary contributions to our country and the world.”

The White House awards ceremony is Nov. 24.

This year’s full list of Medal of Freedom recipients:

First published November 10 2014, 3:43 PM

Read the original post:
Tom Brokaw, Meryl Streep, Stevie Wonder Awarded Medal of Freedom



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